Sunday 24 September 2017

Kenya stunned as supreme court overturns re-election of president

Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga celebrate after the verdict in Nairobi, Kenya yesterday. Photo: Ben Curtis/AP Photo
Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga celebrate after the verdict in Nairobi, Kenya yesterday. Photo: Ben Curtis/AP Photo

Adrian Blomfield

Kenya's Supreme Court has overturned the re-election of Uhuru Kenyatta, the country's president, ordering a fresh vote in a stunning ruling unprecedented in Africa's history.

Prompting raucous street celebrations by opposition supporters and naked disbelief in presidential quarters, the court found that Mr Kenyatta's victory in the election, which held on August 8, was marred by "irregularities and illegalities".

Robed in red and black, the six judges on the bench ruled by a majority of four to two to uphold a petition by Mr Kenyatta's challenger, Raila Odinga, who argued that he had been deprived of victory through systematic fraud.

Although the court appeared to absolve Mr Kenyatta of rigging, the chief justice, David Maraga, concluded that the manner in which the electoral commission had tallied the votes was so flawed it merited a re-run of the election within 60 days.

"The presidential election held on August 8 was not conducted in accordance with the constitution and applicable law, rendering the results invalid, null and void," he said.

Mr Odinga had initially refused to mount a legal challenge to the results, arguing that the supreme court had proved itself to be a partisan tool of the executive after it rejected his petition five years ago to overturn Mr Kenyatta's first election victory.

He capitulated only under international pressure after at least 28 of his supporters were killed by police during violent protests triggered by the electoral commission formally declaring Mr Kenyatta's re-election three weeks ago.

In the slums of Nairobi and the cities of western Kenya, where support for Mr Odinga is most fanatical, they marched in their hundreds of thousands in celebration at the ruling.

Mr Kenyatta defeated his challenger by 1.4 million votes, a margin of 9.5pc.

The court has yet to release its detailed findings, but the chief justice intimated that the court had reached its verdict not because Mr Odinga had proved fraud but due to the opaque manner in which the count was conducted.

Results filed from a quarter of the 40,000 polling stations were not submitted to the central tallying centre with the required hard copies signed by agents from both parties, but were nonetheless allowed to stand.

Irish Independent

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